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Man who fled after hearing not entitled to discharge

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The motion for discharge under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C) by a man charged in connection with a gun shop burglary in Morgan County was properly denied by the trial court, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday. Much of the delay in bringing him to trial within a year was attributable to the appellant, including his decision to flee after a hearing.

In Scott Speers v. State of Indiana, 55A01-1208-CR-391, Scott Speers was arrested by police on March 11, 2011, after blood found at the crime scene matched his DNA in the CODIS database. But his jury trial didn’t begin until July 17, 2012. In that time frame, Speers filed a motion to continue because his counsel was going to be out of town on the original trial date of Aug. 24, 2011, and then he later indicated he would plead guilty. Speers was also arrested in another county during this time, and then fled after a Dec. 22, 2011, hearing. He was arrested five days later.

The trial had to be continued so Speers could get a new attorney, as his prior attorney would be a witness in his escape case, and the case was moved to a different court. Nearly 480 days elapsed before Speers went to trial, but enough of the delay was attributable to Speers to support the denial of his Rule 4(C) motion, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The judges also held that the trial court didn’t erroneously admit results of the DNA testing in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment when only DNA analyst Lori James testified. The lab tech who transferred the blood sample from the broken glass in the store to white cloths for testing by James did not testify. Citing Pendergrass v. State, 913 N.E.2d 703, 705 (Ind. 2009), the COA found that James’ testimony regarding the evidence sufficed for Sixth Amendment purposes because she had direct involvement in the testing and analysis of the DNA at issue.

They also rejected his claim that Pendergrass is no longer good law in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s plurality opinion in Williams v. Illinois, 132 S. Ct. 2221 (2012).

Finally, the appeals court held that the direct examination of the lead detective by the state did not present evidence that created an “evidentiary harpoon,” as Speers contended. He sought a mistrial on the basis the state was leaving the jury to speculate how he was developed as a suspect. The state tried to avoid informing the jury of the CODIS match, which would have indicated Speers had a criminal history.

The trial court correctly denied the motion for mistrial, the judges ruled, because the question by the state and the detective’s response did not inject inadmissible evidence into the trial, and it was simply used by the state as a transition from testimony regarding the initial suspect to the detective’s subsequent investigation of Speers.

 

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